With new smart technologies emerging every day and IoT expanding, we are witnessing a growing trend for smart homes and smart home devices. While most of these smart technologies are meant for increased convenience in tasks, some implementations of them are rather serious and require more careful consideration. One such example is; smart home security. So let’s start with the basics- how secure are smart home door locks? We’ve brought on industry experts to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using smart home locks.
Pro: They Work with Smartphones, Con: The Technology Sometimes Fails
“One of the most appealing features of smart locks is their ability to integrate with smartphones. After downloading the software that works with a smart lock, a person can lock and unlock the door from afar. That ensures they have no excuse to turn around to return home if they go on a road trip and forget to lock the front door until an hour into the drive. They will simply open the app and use their phone to protect their house. August smart locks, for example, allow you to check if the door is locked or not via an app. Rather than straining your memory to recall the actions you took right before leaving the home, you can rely on the software to do it for you. Rather than straining your memory, to recall the actions you took right before leaving the building, you may rely on the software to confirm that you accomplished what is probably the most valuable role in home security.” While smart locks provide you that advantage, Ansh Gupta, Founder of Empire Crafter, goes on to explain the problems with smart locks, “Any smart locks, for example, only fit with deadbolts. The smart lock can not protect the deadbolt as intended until the door is securely locked. Even putting that aside, some homeowners can not like the fact that most smart locks will only regulate one of your door’s locks, rather than all of them. So, if you’re a double-door-locker like me, this may not be a worthwhile investment. Understandably, people are hesitant to embrace new technologies, particularly when it comes to anything as important as home security. If you’re considering installing a smart lock in your home, make sure to read a variety of reviews to get a good idea of which ones are most likely to meet your needs.”
Pro: No More Keys and Convenience with Codes, Con: Risk of Hackers and Dependence on a Power Supply
“You won’t have to fumble with your keys or jiggle the key in the lock to get it to unlock if you have a smart door lock. If you’re expecting visitors or a house sitter when you’re abroad, you can create unique codes for each individual or party, as well as a time limit for each code. Also, if you’re concerned that someone with a key (such as a previous property owner) may attempt to access your house, you can simply change the code rather than replacing the lock. If you have other smart home devices, you might be able to attach them so that, for example, when you unlock the door, your smart lights turn on.” says Thomas Fultz, Founder & Tech Expert at Coffeeble. Fultz also sheds light on some disadvantages smart locks bring with them, “Although some smart door locks eliminate the risk of lock picking, they may be vulnerable to hacker attempts to bypass the entry code that unlocks the door. On the positive side, if an unauthorized user gains access to the device, the system might be able to alert you (and the police). Smart door locks, unlike traditional locks, are battery-operated devices, and batteries will die. You must be vigilant and replace the battery until it runs out of power. Smart door locks are more expensive than traditional lock-and-key systems, and you will need to hire a professional to mount the lock and connect it to your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. If smart door locks break down, they can be costly to repair.”
Vulnerability to Hackers
“Hacking is the smart lock’s biggest disadvantage,” says Steve Scott, CTO at Spreadsheet Planet, “Although they reduce the risk of lock picking, hackers may bypass the device and gain access to your house. To gain access to your network, they can target poor digital security protocols on the lock. In this case, you’re putting your security at risk. You may want to invest in a virtual private network, as you would for other Internet-of-Things devices (VPN). With the new encryption technology, setting up a VPN on your router will secure the connections of your smart lock or other devices. Even if hackers steal your virtual key, they won’t be able to decrypt it and unlock your smart lock.”
“A typical deadbolt costs less than $50; installation costs a little more, but chances are you already have one on your front door. It’s relatively simple to replace a deadbolt if you already have one. Smart locks, on the other hand, are much more expensive, ranging from $150 to $300.” says Mike Dragan, COO at Stream Live, emphasizing on the price issue of smart locks, compared to regular locks, “That’s a significant investment for something you probably already have and which is still functional. Furthermore, installation can be challenging, especially if you want complete connectivity.” Dragan advises understanding your requirements for the smart locks before you get them installed, “If you’re replacing a traditional deadbolt with a smart lock, make sure the smart lock you choose is compatible with the orientation of your door. Some people can only lock their left or right hand, while others can lock both. What a letdown when you get home and know you’ll have to switch your door hinges. It’s important to note that the $150-$300 range is just for one door. If you want to install a smart lock on a back or side door, the price would automatically go up. That shouldn’t be an issue if you just use your front door. If not, now is the time to consider how much you’re willing to pay for convenience and where you draw the line. In addition, smart locks need some maintenance. Most come with batteries, but these would need to be replaced on a regular basis. This would add a small sum to the total cost of your smart lock, which you didn’t need with your battery-free traditional deadbolt in the past.”
Convenience with a Risk
“I think the new wave of smart home tech that’s being developed now is a very positive thing for homeowners. As more people move to modernize their homes for the sake of convenience, companies are finally able to keep up with the market by providing options across a variety of price points. But there’s a big difference between a smart plug and a smart lock.” says Rex Freiberger, CEO, Gadget Review, “After all, if someone hacks into your wifi network and turns off your appliances, it’s a minor inconvenience most times. If someone can access the locks on your front door, you have bigger problems. Without ironclad security, it’s very easy for someone to get into your system and unlock your home. That said, if you set it up securely, you actually stand to have better protection from smart locks since the system can alert you when they’ve been tampered with.”
The Advantages come with the Disadvantages
According to Jesse David Thé, the CEO of Tauria, the advantages of Smart home locks include, “Easy entrance: you won’t have any of the inconveniences that come with keys, as all you will need is your phone to enter your home. Smart locks keep track of who and when someone enters your house. You can check at what hour your child arrived home, or who had access to your house when you were on vacation. You can even program a special code for someone to enter your house when you are not around, like a housekeeper or a relative. You can even set an expiration date for that code so they won’t have access all the time. It will save you money in terms of changing who has access to your house. If you just bought a property, you won’t need to change the entire lock; just change the codes and you’re done!” As a security expert providing video conferencing solution with e2e encryption, Jesse Thé, explains the disadvantages of smart home locks, “It relies on a phone connection and, most of the time, on Wi-fi. If you lose your phone, or if there’s a power outage you will be locked out of your house if you don’t have a backup plan. They are more expensive than regular door locks. There’s always the risk of getting hacked; especially if you don’t buy the lock and the system from a reliable company. They run on batteries, so you will have to keep remembering to buy new ones before they die.”
Smart home locks definitely offer some perks like security and convenience, but you also need to understand fully the potential issues it comes with before going ahead and installing them.
Desiree Macy is the Editorial Director of SIA Online Magazine which is frequented by security executives, corporate security officers, and private protection professionals each month. Desiree’s interests revolves around cyber-security, and business continuity.